Ben Shofet co-editor-in-chief
Since 1789, the United States has expanded the voting rights of its citizens. Following the Civil War, African-Americans gained the right to vote with the passing of the 15th Amendment. After years of fighting, women gained the right to vote with the passing of the 19th Amendment. And most recently, with the passing of that 26th Amendment lowered the voting age to 18.
However, if the American people wish for our democracy to stay intact we must expand the rights of young Americans and lower the voting age once again.
Every election cycle the same statistic is thrown around again and again: Americans have the lowest voter turnout among developed countries. The largest turnout for Americans are the presidential elections, in which barely over 50 percent of eligible voters cast their vote.
This problem can simply be solved, however, by lowering the voting to 16 so that young Americans can develop the habit of voting at a younger age which will stay with them far beyond high school.
If the voting age were to be lowered to 16, then many students in high school would be given the opportunity to vote. Schools could then run polling stations during school hours and provide students with the opportunity to cast their vote.
In addition to providing students with an easy access place to vote, students will also be taught how to vote. In schools, students will be taught how to register to vote and how to cast their vote. For adults who are unfamiliar with the electoral process, there are several organizations like Rock the Vote who actively seek to aid American’s who have not registered to vote. Despite these organization’s efforts, voter participation has not dramatically increased over the years. It seems all of the measures attempted thus far have failed, which is why if we hope to solve the issue of having a low voter turnout, then this nation must lower the voting age to 16.
The common counterargument to this has been that those under 18 are inexperienced and lack the proper knowledge and education to vote. That argument was the same one used to disenfranchise African Americans and women, so to use that again against the youth of this nation would be a direct violation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 which declared literacy tests illegal. Today, the same restraints are placed on the youth of this nation. We are barred from voting because we have been named too stupid, ill informed, and naive for the world of politics.
It is a civic duty as an American to vote. For decades, those who came before us fought for the right to vote and today nearly half of eligible Americans do not fulfill their duty as Americans. In Obama’s final weeks of office, he continually stressed the importance of voting and to no one’s surprise in November only 54 percent of the voting age population casted their ballots. Our democracy cannot continue to function if nearly half of the population is inactive If we truly want to increase voter participation in this country, then we must lower the voting age.